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Traveling this summer? Don’t forget Flat Abe.

24 Jun

Balloons released with postcards.There are time honored traditions that every elementary student takes part in. I remember tying a postcard to a balloon and letting it fly, hoping whenever the flight ended someone would find my postcard, note where it landed and send it back to me. Some kids send out messages in bottles or the more traditional chain letter. The lesson in these exercises is to expand the worldview of the student. To show a child that there is so much more than their small insulated community. Similarly, the beloved children’s book Flat Stanley (by Jeff Brown in 1964) has evolved to the Flat Stanley project. In the Flat Stanley children’s books, Stanley travels the world in envelopes. Students who read the books send the paper doll and written notes to students in other parts of the world through conventional mail and e-mail. Children exchange ideas, photographs, questions and culture with students overseas. Once again, a world view is expanded and connections are made.

LMU’s Flat Abe project is aimed at providing a way for LMU students and alumni to share their blue and grey pride and document their travels. Flat Abe can be requested through the LMU Alumni page (alumni.LMUnet.edu/FlatAbe) and getting started is as easy as:

  1. Request Flat Abe
  2. Receive Flat Abe
  3. Take Flat Abe pictures
  4. Share Flat Abe pictures
Flat Abe in Zimbabwe.

Flat Abe visited Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe with Bill Hoffard.

As the alumni page explains, “Abe represents all of the LMU family and our impact on the world, because we represent LMU no matter where we are. Whether we are relaxing on the beach or volunteering our time on mission trips to underserved communities, we are carrying LMU’s legacy with us. And who better to bring with us on those trips but Abe himself?”

Since the program began Flat Abe has had some interesting journeys. He has celebrated important milestones including births, marriages and more. He has made it to quite a few locations including Labadee, Haiti; Cozumel, Mexico; Falmouth, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; and US cities in Florida, California, Texas, Nevada, and Tennessee. Flat Abe also hung out with some famous people like Clare Bowen from ABC’s Nashville.

Clare Bowen and Flat Abe.

Flat Abe and LMU Alum Jamie Mihalko met Clare Bowen of ABC’s Nashville, where else? In Nashville at a Predator’s Game.

So if summer adventures are on your horizon, don’t forget to pack Flat Abe and share your journeys with the LMU community. LMU Director of Alumni Services Donnie Lipscomb did just that earlier this week when he landed in Shannon, Ireland on his way to Galway with the current LMU Alumni Travel trip to the Emerald Isle.

 

Honest Abe in the Emerald Isle.

Flat Abe arrived in Ireland earlier this week.

When a gift is more than a gift…

2 Oct

LMU_WordmarkWhen I arrived on campus at LMU eight years ago it wasn’t my first foray into life and work in academia. As I may have mentioned before, I spent two years in media relations at the University of Tennessee working for Lady Vol Athletics. Before that, there was the four years I spent as a student at St. Bonaventure University. Schools big or small; public or private; religiously affiliated or lay; vary greatly in size, structure and scope of their staff and administration. I have observed in every stop of my journey that public relations, media relations and marketing vary greatly depending on that structure.

Here at LMU, PR and Marketing is part of University Advancement. In my previous stops PR was grouped with communications as its own division. I will admit there it was an adjustment for me. I had to change my mindset slightly. Where I was used to focusing my attention on media relations and publicity above and beyond anything else, in University Advancement donor relations take precedent. Yes, a positive public image is always an end goal, but how our messaging will impact donors should also be considered. Even as a student, receiving donor-funded scholarships I had never considered a donors role at an institution.

Yesterday was designated as a Day of Giving at LMU. The day was set aside by President Dawson to encourage giving to LMU. Coming about a month ahead of National Philanthropy day, our goal was to encourage giving and make students, faculty and staff aware of how giving impacts everyone at LMU. It is easy to look at the rapid growth the University has experienced over the last decade and see the physical impact of large gifts to the University. There are Pope, Mitchell, Dishner, Langley, Shelton and Burchett residence halls. All of the new residence halls were built with funds from generous donors. Not to mention the new academic buildings or renovation and revitalization of some of our most storied structures.

What you can’t always see is how gifts large and small have indirect impacts for the University. I give through payroll deduction. My monthly gift of $20 comes out of my paycheck and I don’t even miss it. That is $240 for the year, not a huge donation or commitment on my part. One might argue it is like taking a decrease in pay, but I know that gift makes a difference. Not only can LMU put my $20 a month in to the annual fund, they also can count me in the employee giving rate. In fact, the division of University Advancement has a 100% giving rate. That means everyone in our division makes at least one gift in a year.

LMU was also named an Up-and-Coming institution in the South.

LMU was also named an Up-and-Coming institution in the South.

Giving rates are tools that grant funders, foundations and philanthropists often request when deciding what organizations that they will support. The rate at which employees and alumni giving paint a powerful picture of the support an institution enjoys. The great thing about giving rates is that is a calculation of participation. Whether you give $1, $240 or $1,000 you are counted.

Giving rates also have an effect on rankings and recognition for a school. In the latest US News and World Report college rankings LMU made gains in its ranking on the Regional Universities list, moving from No. 80 to No. 66. One of the categories looked at in compiling that list is giving rates.

I support LMU because I believe in its mission. I believe that education at every level improves a person’s quality of life and I believe that LMU is making lives better by providing educational opportunities in Appalachia and beyond. And I believe that my $20 a month makes a difference for LMU. I see it every day and I challenge you to consider matching my gift with a gift of your own. It doesn’t have to be made monthly and it doesn’t have to be more than $1, but think of the good we could do if every person who reads this entry gave to LMU.

Recipients of donor-funded scholarships pose for a photo during the LMU Day of Giving activities.

Recipients of donor-funded scholarships pose for a photo during the LMU Day of Giving activities.

Take us out to the ballpark…

2 Jul

The boom, pop and crackle of fireworks should be filling the air throughout the country later this week as July 4th celebrations spread coast to coast, sea to shining sea. Here in the southeast, we are anticipating more of a fizzle than sizzle because of rainy forecasts. In fact, most counties in the LMU service area are under a flood watch through Friday evening. Thankfully, celebrating the birth of this great nation is not always limited to Fourth of July fireworks, barbeques and picnics.

Scot Shields

Scot Shields

Anyone who has uttered the words “as American as apple pie,” knows there are a slew of American institutions that fit that billing. Baseball is certainly one of them as America’s favorite pastimes. LMU’s love affair with competitive baseball can be traced back to within 11 years of the University’s founding. LMU has boasted a baseball team since 1908. The 105 years that have followed brought LMU banner seasons, conference and league titles, All-Americans, future pros and even a World Series Champ. One of our most notable alumni, Scot Shields, won a World Series with the Angels back in 2002.

Tennessee Smokies

Tennessee Smokies

The love affair continues as LMU is a corporate sponsor for the Tennessee Smokies, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs that plays in Sevierville, Tenn. This is the third year of our partnership, which began as a marketing effort to help LMU garner more attention for what was then a new extended learning site in Sevier County. However, the partnership has resulted in one of the University Community’s favorite outings – “LMU Night at Smokies Park.”

Set for a Fireworks Friday on July 19, this year’s event promises fun for the whole family. The Tennessee Smokies will take on the Jacksonville Suns at 7:15 p.m. The University will participate in various promotions during the game. The LMU Cheerleaders, Dance Team and Abe will join Diamond and Slugger, the Smokies’ mascots, for pregame entertainment. Additionally, LMU admissions will be on hand with recruitment materials and give-aways. It will be Kenny Chesney Theme Night at the park featuring the country music star’s greatest hits. Following the game, a free fireworks show will take place.

It’s not too late to join the fun. Discounted tickets are available for faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. The ticket package is $11 apiece and includes admission to the game and a meal voucher good for a hotdog, a soft drink and chips. Follow this link to order online.

Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate for our celebration of the American institution of baseball and our Fireworks Friday will be more sizzle than fizzle. However, if Mother Nature does deal us another bad hand, rainchecks will be available.

Inspiring a world view.

12 Nov

Growing up in outside of Syracuse, N.Y, I lived a pretty sheltered life with a limited world view. My parents were both born and raised in that same small town. Though my dad attended college, he doesn’t have a degree and for living in New York State her entire life, my mom had never been to New York City until just a few years ago. When we took trips growing up, it was always within state or nearby. In fact, until my honeymoon almost 10 years ago, the only country outside of the United States I had visited was Canada.

To say my worldview is much larger than my parents would be misleading, because though I have traveled all over the United States and moved to the very foreign “South” more than a decade ago, my passport has the same two stamps that theirs does – Canada and Aruba. My husband has at least been overseas, having visited Greece. With such a limited view, I jumped on an opportunity to give my children an international experience without leaving the security of our home. I did this by volunteering to be a host family for the World School International Forum 2012.

The World School organization was founded in 1997 by Masaki Mastudaira, the former Chairman and present advisor to the board of trustees at Kanto International Senior High School in Tokyo, Japan. From 1997 to 2001 the Forum was held in Tokyo, hosted by its founding institution, Kanto International Senior High School. Building on the success of the first five years of World School Forum, the organization has extended its mission to other countries during the last decade. A different member school hosts the Forum every other year, with the event returning to Japan in alternate years. Recent host countries have included South Korea, Australia and Italy. The United States was the first country other than Japan to host the forum in 2002 and ten years later, the forum returned to Tennessee.

The mission of World School is to create a truly borderless entity for the purpose of helping the participants create their image of an ideal educational program. The program is designed to train students to adopt a global perspective by becoming receptive to differences and to enable them to form lasting friendships. It will also prepare them to excel in a globalized society.

To the community that hosts the Forum, it is a rich opportunity to learn from the participants and share the local culture. Having served on the World School Committee, I had been involved in the planning of the Forum for over a year. As we discussed the home stay portion of the forum, I was intrigued by what the experience could mean to our family.

I have five-year-old twin daughters. They made their first 12-hour car ride to visit my family in NY when they were 11 months old and have made almost annual trips back there since then. They are acutely aware that our country is vast. I recently discussed a planned trip for Thanksgiving and their response was “Grandma and Grandpa’s house if far away, can’t they just come here?”

I can remember growing up and especially at their age, not being aware of much outside my hometown and state. Florida was a far off place where the magical Disney World was located, but I never really dreamed of seeing other countries.

To prepare the girls for our special visitors, I started telling them that we’d be meeting new friends that had travelled from far away to see us. As soon as I found out what country our guests were from, I showed them the countries on the map. I showed them how close Canada was to where mommy grew up and contrasted that with how far Romania was from Tennessee.

Our World School guests Kate (left) and Daria (right) with Gracie and Andie (on Daria’s lap).

When our home stay weekend arrived and I returned home with our guests, I was impressed to see how much of my brief lessons the girls had retained. Our students were Kate, from Canada, and Daria, from Romania. It was funny to hear Andie and Gracie assail them with questions even before the made it into the house. When we pulled the car into the garage Andie came bursting through the door and Gracie was close on her heels. “Hello Kate! Hello Daria!,” they exclaimed. “Which one is Kate? You know you have the same name as our mommy.”

I was equally impressed with how interested, loving, patient and attentive Kate and Daria were with the girls. That first night, they had just returned from the Washington, D.C., excursion, so they had already been on a bus for around 9 hours when I picked them up in Harrogate. It is an hour to my house in Knoxville, so they had to have been exhausted. Nevertheless, they entertained the girls’ imaginations until it was well past the twins’ bedtime. They let the excited little girls give them a tour of the house and show them their room.

Since the home stay weekend came on the weekend before Halloween, we had grand plans to go to a pumpkin patch, corn maze or fall festival the next morning. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to settle for a more traditional American high schooler’s weekend experience of going to the movies. Andie and Gracie stayed home for the movie, but not before getting Daria and Kate to play hide and seek with them.

After the movie, we came back home and made Halloween cookies to take to a costume party later that night. Again Kate and Daria showed tremendous patience with Andie and Gracie, helping them roll out the dough and cut out ghosts, pumpkins and tombstones.

The party was at one of our close friends’ houses and included a bonfire and a performance from an authentic American garage band. I tried to stick close to Daria and Kate since they were among strangers in a strange land, but there was no need for my worry. They made friends easily and seemed to talk to everyone. I think they especially enjoyed the band, which because it was a costume party included James Bond on the keyboard, Big Bird as the lead vocalist and Shrek on bass.

At the end of our weekend, Andie and Gracie were sad to see Kate and Daria go. Each of our guests left us with special gifts from their countries, something the girls still talk about. Monday morning when  Andie and Gracie returned to their school, I was impressed to see how excited they still were from our visit. “We had special guests at our house this weekend,” Andie told the teacher. “Yeah, they were from other countries,” added Gracie. “We live in the United States. Kate is from Canada and Daria is from Romania,” Andie followed up. “Canada is close Mrs. Hale, but we’d have to take a boat to get to Daria’s country,” Gracie said.

It’s Homecoming Week

10 Oct

It’s homecoming week at LMU and that means lots and lots to do. In addition to the full slate of homecoming releases, currently tracking at nine with all the halls of fame inductees and alumni awards, there are special events to attend and photos to take. No matter how busy the week gets, Homecoming will always be one of my favorite times at LMU.

I love that it always falls in Fall, which is when our fair campus is at its most beautiful.  I love the camaraderie that oozes from the University Advancement crew. When you put together as many events in such short period of time as this group does, you have to work together. Plus the UA staff is known for dropping everything to assist each other and not only get the job done, but get it done the right way. And of course when you are working as many hours over a short period of time as Homecoming requires, at some point someone is going to get slap happy, and comedy will ensue. I can’t wait for that!

Perhaps, the best part of Homecoming is seeing LMU’s proud alumni return to Harrogate. It’s amazing to see all the relationships that began right here and to hear all about the shared history of this academic learning community. It’s also inspiring to see what our alumni have been up to since graduation.

This could possibly be the biggest and best Homecoming yet. The Governor of Tennessee is going to be here to help us dedicate the Math and Science Building; retired MLB pitcher Scot Shields will be on campus for the first time in five years; and the weather forecast is looking perfect.

Bring on Homecoming.  We’re ready and waiting.

Olympic Fever

6 Aug

With 10 days down and six (seven if you count today) more to go, the world has Olympic fever. Here in the U.S., the first 10 days have brought us to our feet cheering as Michael Phelps added six medals to his Olympic haul (making him the most decorated Olympian of all time), the “Fab Five” U.S. Gymnastic Team overcame distracting turmoil from the individual competition to dominate on its way to gold and Missy Franklin became the most popular “regular high school kid” in America.

Whether the somewhat strange opening ceremony caught your eye or you’ve been caught up in the sports action or NBC’s tape delayed coverage has you tweeting #NBCfail, Americans have been tuning in droves. My daily exclamation filled emails from our WBIR rep has confirmed that many in the Knoxville area have been part of the droves. Hopefully, that means they’ve also caught LMU’s newest commercials.

 

A newspaper ad that was part of the 2008 “I am a Railsplitter” campaign for LMU.

Four years ago we had tremendous feedback and response to the TV campaign we ran during the Beijing Games. The campaign included one of the very first tv spots for LMU, “I am a Railsplitter.” The spot was part of a larger campaign that featured some of our most successful alumni. Beyond the television advertising, we also ran print ads and even some radio flights in the Knoxville area.

This time around our campaign features the tag line “I am LMU.” The spot itself is a “mash-up” of seven individual spots we have developed to highlight the varied career paths available at LMU. Those spots included “I am a nurse,” “I am a teacher,” “I am an osteopathic physician,” “I am a lawyer,” “I am physician assistant,” “I am a veterinary technician” and “I am a business professional.” Beyond emphasizing the multitude of majors at LMU, the spots are also feature some of our brightest students, most caring and involved faculty and successful alumni. Underscored throughout the campaign is the message that LMU is mission driven. The University is not only training the next generation of osteopathic physicians, nurses, physician assistants, educators, veterinary technicians, lawyers and business professionals, we are training them to serve humanity and improve the quality of life in Appalachia.

Though the commercial debuted during the Summer Olympics, the “I am LMU” campaign will continue throughout the upcoming school year. In the mean time, there are six more days of Olympic action to take in. GAME ON!

 

LMU Family Day at Dollywood in Pictures.

16 Jul

LMU family day at LMU was too fun to put into words, so I’ll let a few photos tell the story. Enjoy, we sure did.